Price paid: $ 450
Purchased from: Guitar Shoppe
Sound — 9
There were three reasons I bought this guitar.... 1.) I like Jaguars and Mustangs 2.) I wanted a "sleeper" shred machine at the time 3.) I found out that the Fender Dynamic Vibrato is a damn good trem unit Now I know what you're thinking. "But dude, it's a cutesy pastel blue surf style guitar with a non-locking trem". Well We'll talk about that later, let's talk about reason #2, the "Sleeper" of this guitar. I compared this guitar to a stock Jag-Stang and it was like night and day. The stock one was fairly low output, and kind of lacked any sort of "soul" to the tone, there was a certain welcoming warmth with a touch of menace missing from the stock one that I liked about the EMG'd guitar, which will be the guitar I'll be talking about here. Back in the olden days, I ran this thing through a lot of faceless solid state crap amps that I made sound good via the magic of cheesy 80's digital effects boards found at pawn shops for a few bananas and usually given to me for a b-day present from bandmates. Back then, my sound was more of a Pantera type sound, very cold, very solid state, but I had a lot of trouble getting the volume up loud enough with all those solid state combos and pedals...that is, till I stopped being scared of blowing up speakers. And indeed I have. This guitar has killed Gorillas, Peaveys, and Epiphones from 3 hours of playing heavy metal. It's fused voice coils to speaker magnets. Oh sure, she may be custey and blue, but this guitar will KILL anything with a speaker wattage lower than 60 watts and a general wattage below 75 when run at stage volume. The only amps that have survived this beast for a long time at loud volumes are a Mesa Stiletto, and a Bugera 333XL, and the Mesa almost died by it's hands. The combination of the naturally scooped midranged 24" scale and the EMG pickups that throw out volts, not millivolts to the preamp makes this the most brutal guitar in my collection. Clean the guitar still sounds gritty in the bridge position, and on a good tube amp cranked, like a plexi or the clean channel on my 333XL, yields a really good Van-Halen like crunch sound. Very warm, thick, yet tight and punchy. The Neck is the yang here, being totally clean, and almost acoustic-like. Mixing both pickups gives a bizarre halfway-between a Tele with 2 pickups on, and a Strat on the middle+bridge setting, both of which are favorites of mine, volume control and pick attack REALLY make a difference in this setting. If I pick more towards the neck, it veers more into Strat territory. Perfect for me since those are all my favorite clean sounds in one guitar. The bridge pickup distorted sounds like your typical EMG 81 with an enhanced bass and treble response thanks to the short 24" scale paired with the high breakover angle bridge/tailpiece bringing those freqencies out more. The sound has the lows of a Les Paul and the highs of a Strat, with more power added to them, but a little less midrange, so having the mids up on the amp is important or the guitar won't cut enough on solos. With a flat EQ (all knobs at 5) on the 333XL gives the guitar a very "Les Paul + Marshall" type sound, but a tad bit smoother due to the rounded off midrange. Both pickups on distorted gives a very full sound that works more for classic rock in my book, while the neck pickup has more of a Stevie Ray Vaughn on a Jazzmaster kind of sound to it, it has the Jazzmaster's lows and highs (though not as bright), but Number One's general timbre, probably due to my amp setup, which is strange as the pickup is supposed to be strat-like, so I can only think this has to do with the positioning of the pickup and it's angle that gives it that similarity to a Jazzmaster. A VERY bluesy pickup, and keeps a nice tight, but thick grit when playing rhythm on it. I'll give this guitar a 9, it has all my favorite tones in the right places.
Overall Impression — 9
These days, I'm all over the place genre-wise. In one band, so far we have funk, metal, punk, ska, psychedelic, and New Wave songs of our own all in one band (though they all have a consistent thread that ties them together stylistically). This guitar is still the #1 10 years later, despite the fact it shares a double gig bag with a Mustang, Jaguar, and a custom home-built Jazzmaster. I've been playing 16 years, and honestly, I think I've found the "holy grail" for me guitar-wise. Also, NOBODY steals this guitar. It stays on me all the time, I never let it out of my sight when it's out live. Some people think I'm crazy, but I know they don't understand, so I don't care. Remember Ray Charles in the Blues Brothers and the kid trying to steal the Strat, just think of him if he were a huge tall guy with a bad temper. I almost lost it once, almost had to get mean to get it back. Compared to the stock ones, this guitar has something magical about it that the other's don't have, and I can't describe it. A lot of guitarists find that one guitar. Billy Gibbons says Pearly Gates is his benchmark, this guitar is mine. Even then, they are all good.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This is the toughest guitar I've ever owned. In the 10 years I've had it, it's only ever failed me ONCE, and that was my own fault (shoddy Radio Shack input jack). It's only ever broken a total of about 5 strings (almost all of them being the D string). The hardware is the most impressive part, in particular, the vibrato unit. I'm not like most Mustang/Jag-Stang players, I use the whammy bar, a lot, and very hard, think Brad Gillis/Edward Van-Halen/Kerry King/Alex Laiho stuff. Even now, with well worn knife edges, saddles that have the chrome worn down to the bare brass, and a foreign thread Stratocaster bar to replace the original Mustang bar as the set-screw stripped after years of faithful service, it STILL stays in perfect tune despite all the flutters, dive-bombs, squealing, and other wild Dimebag-esque treatment I give it. I've only ever heard of one Floyd Rose that has lived through all that...and that's the one on Brad Gillis's red 1962' Fender Strat. I took off the original strap buttons, I never use them, I prefer Schaller Strap Locks, which eventually have to get reinstalled anyway since I'm always moving on stage, and they tend to come loose. The one thing not holding up well is the finish. It's been chipping and cracking off. The finish is almost all gone on the edge where my arm sits, there's some buckle rash forming on the back. Some people call it mojo/character, others keep telling me I should get the guitar repainted, but I'm one of the Mojo guys myself. I figure if it wears through to the wood, then it will be time for a refinish, probably in the same color. I'd say it's lost a TON of finish in the past 2-3 years of playing live. All but the finish is tough, I'll give it an 8.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Here's where this guitar finally falls short on something. The Jag-Stang, as we all know, has it's inherent flaws, but they are not so hard to deal with. The first problem I came across was the low E string saddle lost it's intonation screw as it was too loose, and even then, when the screw was there, the string would rattle against it and buzz. Just as I planned to cut it shorter, it was lost, and I got a 1964 Fender Mustang bridge saddle screw put in it's place, rusty and all. It's still there after all these years, and the guitar can't buzz anymore. Also, the bridge kept lowering itself, I fixed that with a light bit of 3M Scotch tape on the threads to gum them up a bit, it's been perfect ever since. The second was the neck joint, I've noticed on most of the Jag-Stang's I've seen the neck looks a little off-center. I can only attribute this to the strange body shape being hard to get a definite center-line on, but I found it, and fixed the issue, my neck is 100% straight now, with the help of a cut up celluloid guitar pick cleverly placed in the right spot. Another small one is the control cavity is slightly wonky from the control plate inside, but it does not matter at all to me because nobody sees that anyway, and it has no effect on anything. Other than that, the guitar is pretty flawless, and one of the best parts is the most important, the fretwork and setup, even now, with worn to hell frets, this guitar can have the action cranked all the way down to the fretboard and STILL plays without any buzzing on any frets. With a 7.16" Radius, this is pretty amazing. So I'll give it a 7.5-8 for this category because the few issues were relatively minor and easy to fix for next to nothing, plus I enjoy working on guitars anyway so it's not much of a bother.
Features — 9
Time for a change of pace in my gear reviews, instead of the cheesy axes so horribly chintzy you can't help but love them, let's get onto the mere goddesses of the guitar world...in this case, the much maligned (and misunderstood) Fender Jag-Stang, or in this case, my customized from the start main axe of 10+ years (as of 2010). - Made in Japan in 1996, Fender's 50th Anniversary per Gold Sticker, this seems to be a common year for the original Jag-Stang models. - 22 Vintage Frets, 24" Scale. The neck is similar to a 60's Fender "A" Neck width offered on the Mustang and Jaguar at the time, which was a very skinny profile. It's supposedly modeled on Kurt's 72' Competition Mustang (as seen in the Smells like Teen Spirit video). - Basswood Jag-Stang Body, Essentially a trimmed down Jaguar with a Mustang treble side horn, more extreme tail angle, and Mustang routing with a humbucker rout at the bridge. Painted with a thick 2mm coat of Sonic Blue, no contours. - Fender Dynamic (Mustang) Vibrato tailpiece with floating Mustang style bridge, both have been used to hell and back. - EMG Pickups, SA in the neck, 81 in the bridge, both older models, running off a single 9 volt in the control cavity. The electronics are also farther modified by turning the bridge pickup Switch into a pickup selector, and the neck pickup Switch into a "tone switch" with 2 filters wired to it to get some oddball sounds, I may be changing this eventually. Treble bleed on master volume which I can use to give the guitar a more single-coil like timbre (very Tele-like) when needed. 1 Vol, 1 Tone, pickup select, tone switch, that's all there is to it. - I've had this guitar through 3 sets of tuning machines thus far, the original Ping Kluson copies wore out (like they usually do), then were replaced with some Schallers because that's all that was available at the time and I could not do without my main axe. Now it has Tone-Pros Klusons with conversion bushings installed. And I got this with the apparently super rare hardshell case. I've never found this guitar lacking, it has pretty much what I need 97% of the time, the rest is covered by similar guitars with very different tonal personalities.